A Couple of Observations Around the F1 Qualifying Rule Change

A couple of quick sketches to demonstrate the effect of the recent rule change to F1 Qualifying…

First, session utilisation for qualifying during last year’s 2015 Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix :


Cars are on track throughout qualifying with many drivers completing two stints per session, with two or three laps per stint in the first part of qualifying.

Here’s what qualifying look like this year:

One or two single lap stints, in the main, in Q1 and single lap, single run outings in Q2. Q3 also saw half the runners only completing a single stint.

Earlier in the year, when planning for the new qualifying format was to-ing an fro-ing, Bernie Ecclestone made a comment that changes would not be possible because “his technical team cannot prepare the software and graphics in time”.

In part, that’s because the whole timing thing is a mess. The FIA time sheets for qualifying yesterday included lap times that fell outside the rolling guillotine. My qualifying session cut-off time code doesn’t really work any more because it doesn’t factor in the rolling cut-off time, but what it does show is that a time recorded on the time sheet for Perez would have made the cut-off, if Perez hadn’t completed the lap too late.


Although recorded later in the session, Hulkenberg’s time was allowed, because he hadn’t yet been excluded.

To the extent that the new qualifying format was supposed to mix-up the grid, this sort of worked – Perez will be starting lower down the grid than he would have under last year’s qualifying format.

For more charts from this week’s race, see f1datajunkie.com. To learn how to create the charts, see Wrangling F1 Data With R.

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

5 thoughts on “A Couple of Observations Around the F1 Qualifying Rule Change”

  1. This new format appears to favor the fast teams as they are afforded more time tuning the car’s setup as compared to the slower teams. One thing I don’t understand is why the slower teams release their cars later in the session as compared to Mercedes, Ferrari, and Williams. Given that behavior, it feels like everybody has interpreted the rules to mean that you have 2 or 3 laps to participate in the grid sorting, and thus there is no upside of subjecting the power-unit to more miles.

    My personal reason I don’t like the new format is that the goal to mix up the starting grid only works for circuits where passing is possible. As an example of my grievance, Monaco is always a super boring race because it is difficult to pass other cars, and thus it is not racing, just a game of tyres and attrition. Mixing up the grid is going to mix up the points, but we are not going to see a more interesting race, IMHO.

    As always, in the end it is just going to be money that decides. Would you pay $5k for a Paddock ticket on Saturday?

    1. I’m not sure how the strategists work out when to go; if the track is evolving quickly, it’s perhaps a reason to go out later, but with not much running it won’t evolve?!

      I’m guessing it may be possible to analyse the situation using auction/game theory, using a prediction of the time a team think’s they’ll get and what they think the other teams can achieve?

      1. game theory: I like the idea, but likely to be a little complex for this simple trade-off: after practice, all the teams and drivers have a reasonable idea where they’ll be on the grid plus/minus 1 row. They go out and run to that expected slot, no need to risk the car to try to push beyond. And when reached their row expectation, they return to pit lane and roll the car back into the garage. Manor isn’t going to push up the grid, and even Ferrari has been out of the car relatively early after their first flying lap. Looks to me that they have made their bets.

        1. “after practice, all the teams and drivers have a reasonable idea where they’ll be on the grid plus/minus 1 row” – right – so I see it as an auction where you have a reasonable idea of what you best bid (laptime) is as well as a good estimate of other cars’ bids; uncertainty then, in part, is when to make the bid. (The auction also has multiple lots/slots and a rolling sale through them?)

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